10th Annual Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Conservation Symposium

See List of Speakers
Santa Barbara County Education Office
February 25, 2023
10:00AM - 4:45PM

Sponsored by the Nakashima-Rennie Family.

Celebrating Recovery on the Islands of the Californias

The islands of the Californias are precious gems strung along a section of the coast of western North America — stunningly beautiful and home to unique plants and animals found nowhere else in the world, like the diminutive island fox, the cobalt blue Island Scrub-Jay, the iconic island oak (Quercus tomentella), and brilliant island mallows (Malva spp.). However, these unique ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to introduced species. In fact, 75% of bird, mammal, and reptile extinctions have occurred on islands. On these islands along the coast of California and Baja California, Mexico, a suite of nonnative, invasive animals were introduced between around 150 to 100 years ago. Fenced in by the ocean with no animal predators, populations of sheep, goats, deer, and more reached unsustainable densities. Having evolved without any herbivores larger than a rodent, the naïve island plants had lost their defensive spines and chemicals, and were targeted like baby salad mix. Voracious rats, cats, and mice plucked baby seabirds from the cliffs. Argentine ants did more damage than creatures many times their size and biomass, inhibiting native insects, rodents, and reptiles. Without the native vegetation to hold it together, bare soils eroded in sheets off of the landscape, leaving tree roots exposed up to an adult human’s hip. Whole new sandspits were formed from the eroding soil — enough to alter topographic maps. Fisheries suffered from the influx of sediment.

Fortunately, indomitable conservationists stepped in across the archipelago — from both federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations — to do the near impossible job of removing these invaders. Against steep logistical, legal, and political headwinds, these conservation heroes stayed firm in their knowledge that the islands couldn’t recover without this crucial action. And they made it happen. In February 2023, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden will celebrate three of the many conservation heroes who have led these efforts: Peter Schuyler from The Nature Conservancy and Catalina Island Conservancy, Kate Faulkner from the National Park Service, and Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas in Baja California. We’ll be celebrating their work and the recovery that followed: vegetation transforming from a sea of invasive grasses to diverse native shrublands, rare birds recovering and recolonizing, and pollinators going about their work unhindered. We’ll also applaud the other efforts that were made possible through the recovery process: the planting of thousands of oaks, pines, manzanitas, and more; the fastest removal of a mammal (the island fox) from the endangered species list in history; and the recovery and delisting of six endangered plants. In addition, we’ll discuss how we can continue this work until the longevity and resilience of the islands’ unique flora and fauna are secured.

Agenda and Speaker Lineup

10 – 10:45 | IntroWelcome and Introduction to the islands
Denise Knapp, Ph.D., director of conservation and research at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
10:45 – 11:10 | KeynotePeople, Partnerships, and Persistence: Key Factors for Successful Conservation
Kate Faulkner, Channel Islands National Park (retired)
11:10 – 11:35 | KeynoteMoving Forward by Subtraction: Opening Recovery Options on Santa Cruz and Catalina Islands Following Removal of Introduced Animals
Peter Schuyler, The Nature Conservancy California & Catalina Island Conservancy (retired)
11:35 – 12 | KeynoteComprehensive Restoration of the Mexican Islands
Federico Alfonso Méndez Sánchez, Ph.D., executive director, Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas & Luciana Luna-Mendoza, Ph.D., Director of Ecology Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas
12 – 1 | Lunch
1 – 1:20Recovery Trajectories: Tales of Island Plants 
Kathryn McEachern, Ph.D., Research Plant Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey
1:20 – 1:40Stronger Together: A Collaborative Effort to Conserve and Recover 14 Listed Plants on the Channel Islands
Heather Schneider, Ph.D., Rare Plant Biologist, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
1:40 – 2Post-feral Animal Removal Hangover: Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together
John Knapp, Senior Island Scientist, The Nature Conservancy
2 – 2:20 | BreakRecovery on San Clemente Island: Largest Group Delisting in 50 Years of the Endangered Species Act
Kim O’Connor, Conservation Program Manager, U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet
2:40 – 3Restoring the Ecology of San Nicolas Island
Bill Hoyer, Natural Resources Manager, U.S. Navy, San Nicolas Island
3 – 3:20The Islands of the Californias: Stepping Stones to the Frontiers of Conservation
Scott Morrison, Ph.D., Director of Conservation, The Nature Conservancy California
3:20 – 3:40 | Break
3:40 – 4:40 | Panel DiscussionCall to Action: From the Islands of the Californias to the Future of Conservation
Moderated by Denise Knapp, Ph.D., director of conservation and research at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
All times PST

About Santa Barbara Botanic Conservation Symposium

At our annual Conservation Symposium, we bring conservation heroes and engaging experts together with students, land managers, conservation practitioners, and educators. We examine issues from various angles and then follow with a panel discussion to illuminate how we can all contribute and what we can do even better moving forward. Our participants leave with the knowledge and energy to further the mission of conserving native plants and habitats for the health and well-being of people and our planet.

Click here for a full list of our previous symposium topics and our honorees.

Pricing and Registration:

Registration closed on February 23 at 12 p.m. You can still tune in to our livestream.

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